Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Government Isn't The Solution, It's The Problem, When Run By GOP Conservatives

President Ronald Reagan in his first Inaugural Address proclaimed: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”  Conservative humorist P. J. O'Rourke often quips, "The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it." Here is another example of the absolute truth of O'Rourke's quip.

If you watch Rachel Maddow's MSNBC program you know she has devoted a great deal of time to reporting about "emergency managers" appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the Flint, Michigan water crisis, created by that city's emergency manager. If you haven’t heard Rachel's reporting on this on this scandal, it’s important to get up to speed.

Under the cost cutting and privatization move made by an emergency manager appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, Flint began, almost two years ago, to draw its drinking water from the Flint River. Because the local treatment plant, with the approval of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, run by Gov. Rick Snyder's appointees, didn't add the right chemicals to that river water, lead leached from aging service lines and into the city's drinking water. Thousands of Flint residents — including vulnerable infants and expectant mothers — were exposed to a toxic contaminant that can cause irreversible behavioral and developmental problems.

When data this spring began to show that the amount of lead in Flint's water was increasing, Snyder and his team stood silent. As evidence amassed this summer that something had gone terribly wrong in Flint, MDEQ insisted Flint's water was safe. Still, Snyder's chief of staff wrote an e-mail to the state health department expressing concern, the department reassured him. And then nothing.

Data analyzed by a Flint pediatrician this fall showed that a growing percentage of Flint kids had elevated lead levels in their blood; Snyder's team disparaged the doctor's work. By the end of September, Snyder finally acknowledged that something seemed to be wrong with Flint's water, and that perhaps the switch to Flint River water had not been handled appropriately.

Just last month, still attempting deny his administration and emergency managers caused the Flint man-made disaster, Gov. Snyder told the Free Press' editorial board and other media outlets that it was important to examine other causes of lead contamination in Flint, like paint and old faucets.

This week, the editorial board of the Detroit Free Press turned its attention directly to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who’s facing calls for his arrest from protesters, comparing his handling of the Flint crisis to George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina.
Right now, the State of Michigan should be able to say that it has ensured the delivery of bottled water and water filters to every Flint resident whose drinking water has been contaminated by lead…. Instead, the governor is offering placid responses and slow-walking important remedies, while the investigation into how one of Michigan’s greatest man-made public health crises unfolded comes up with explanations in dribs and drabs.

It’s not just derelict – it invokes inglorious comparison to other callous and insensitive official responses to tragedy. Think of the shameful federal response to Hurricane Katrina, where the same lack of urgency delayed life-saving aid. The poverty rate in Flint is 40%; 52% of Flint residents are African-American. And so we are prompted to ask: How would the state have responded to a crisis of such proportions in a community with more wealth and power?
The key difference between the water crisis in Flint and the crisis in New Orleans in 2005 is Katrina was a natural disaster; Flint’s disaster was the result of public officials disregard for public health and safety just cut government spending in order to cut taxes on business.

Reviewing how we reached this point.

In 2014, the city of Flint, under the control of an “emergency manager” appointed by the governor, was looking for ways to save money. To that end, the Snyder administration approved a plan in which the city would switch its water source: instead of getting water from Detroit, Flint would cut costs by drawing water directly from the Flint River

In theory, there’s nothing particularly wrong with getting drinking and bathing water from a nearby river; plenty of communities across the country already do that. But in order to make Flint River water safe for people, it has to receive a special anti-corrosion treatment.

Failing to treat the water sends corrosive river water through local pipes, it starts to eat through plumbing, and the result is lead poisoning. The Snyder administration did not take the necessary precautions. What’s more, as the community grew concerned about its water, administration officials initially told local residents not to worry and to keep drinking the water.

The result, of course, is a public health crisis in which countless city residents, including many children, have been poisoned, which leads to severe and long lasting consequences. Snyder last week declared an official emergency – he also issued an apology of sorts on New Year’s Eve – but the people of Flint still don’t have safe, clean water. There’s also the political crisis as a result of this man-made disaster.

The EPA warned Snyder administration officials about rising lead levels, but the governor did not alert the public and state officials delayed action to address the problem.

The Republican governor is now facing calls for his resignation and #ArrestGovSnyder protests. Local residents are also moving forward with a class-action lawsuit over the crisis, and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Michigan has confirmed it is investigating the matter to determine if any laws were broken.

Published on Up North Progressives Blog:
Back in 2011, when Gov. Rick Snyder was an unknown nerdy former chairman of the board of a failed computer giant called Gateway was sworn in as governor of the state of Michigan, his plans for the state set off alarm bells in more than a few state residents. Raising taxes on poor people and old people, cutting over a billion dollars out of the school budget to offset two billion in corporate tax cuts made us cringe. Then we learned of something even worse: A plan to substantially increase the powers and duties of the Emergency Financial Manager.

Former Governor Blanchard had first used emergency managers during his administration. They had no power in any way to overrule the democratically elected local government, their purpose simply included helping that government work on budgeting better and get out of debt. The Nerd changed that. He decided that emergency managers shouldn’t share power, they should have ALL the power. They would strip the local government of all authority, break contracts, fire at will, and privatize any and all services the city, school district, township, or county provided to the residents. The Up North Progressive was one of many who noticed this sounded an awful lot like the plot of RoboCop.

It didn’t take long for those of us who were alarmed by this venture capitalist nerd and his sinister plans to organize and beat the streets. We worked through the summer of 2011 collecting signatures to recall him and hold a new election. We worked hard asking the unions to get involved. They refused. We worked hard to get the Democratic Party behind us. They refused. Michael Moore? Not a peep from him. As it slowly and depressingly sank in that we were stuck with Snyder for four years, we worked on other petition drives, including getting rid of the Nerd’s despicable emergency manager law. We didn’t succeed in collecting enough signatures to recall him, but we did collect enough to put eliminating P.A. 4 a.k.a Rick Snyder’s democracy-killing emergency manager law up to a vote of the people. The referendum went on the ballot in 2012, and the law was repealed.

Then Rick Snyder simply had the state legislature write up and pass a new version of the emergency manager law. Despite promising the city of Detroit there would be no bankruptcy, he secretly worked on finding an emergency manager to do just that. Despite obvious evidence that the Education Achievement Authority was a colossal failure, he threatened the rest of state he would expand his special pet school district to everyone. Despite the Michigan State Constitution banning school vouchers, he had software developers and members of his administration holding secret meetings called ‘skunkworks’ to force illegal school vouchers down Michiganians’ throats.

By the time 2014 came, his emergency managers were entrenched in communities helping Snyder’s corporate friends scoop up the assets and privatize them. Detroit residents had their water shut off. Detroit businesses continued getting all the water they wanted while owing millions to the city. As if cutting off city residents to water wasn’t bad enough, an even more deadly horror silently flowed into the taps of homes of Flint residents.

Resignation that the Nerd won another four years to destroy Michigan gave way to anger when people made noise that Flint was being poisoned by the water they had to drink thanks to Rick Snyder’s emergency manager. There is no way to blame this on the city of Flint, or their elected leaders. The local government had no power. They didn’t make the decision to switch to a water supply that was toxic, the decision was made for them by a Snyder appointee who only had to report to Snyder.

So far, making sure branding the crisis is a priority to helping the people suffering through the crisis:

Good thing we have the logo sorted. How else would anyone know the state is taking proactive steps to solve problems? They’re not taking proactive steps. Mostly the state has been in damage control mode trying to figure out how to deal with what is according to them “apparently going to be a thing now.”

According to FOIA records, we know the Snyder administration knew 6 months ago there was a problem with the water in Flint. The city had already been poisoned with the water for a year by then. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality denied the reports, told the EPA they were wrong. Told specialists from Virginia Tech they were wrong. Told pediatricians testing children’s blood and finding alarming levels of lead they were wrong. None of them were wrong. Lansing was wrong. Rick Snyder was wrong.

What happened in Flint, Detroit, and everywhere else Snyder has touched with his toxic hand is criminal. At the least, he shouldn’t be Governor anymore. His political career should be dead. Ideally, Snyder should have to answer for his crimes. Unfortunately he won’t.

Back in 2011, a small group of people realized the damage Rick Snyder could potentially do to the state and organized a recall campaign to get rid of him. Imagine how different things would be today if we had support from the unions, the Democratic Party, more people who knew what Snyder was doing was wrong, but didn’t get involved. Hate to say it, but we told you so.

Origninally published at http://www.upnorthprogressive.com/2016/01/10/dear-people-of-michigan-we-told-you-so/

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